Wednesday, June 1, 2011

City Mansion Under Siege

May 31 2011

A BISHOPSCOURT mansion, valued at R4.4 million, has been invaded by about 35 people who have stripped it bare, wrecked parts of it and allegedly turned it into a haven for drug dealing and prostitution. 

That is the evidence before the Western Cape High Court as part of an application to evict the illegal occupants. 

The house, described in court papers as having eight bedrooms and situated on a 475m2 plot in Maclear Road, is registered in the name of a close corporation, Windflower Properties. 

However, the court has been told, the cc ran into financial difficulties and could no longer afford the bond repayments or the utility bills. 

It was liquidated last December and two trustees were appointed to wind up the estate. It is the trustees who have approached the court seeking an eviction order. 

In an affidavit, liquidator Mohamed Ismail Patel painted a grim picture of the manner in which the house had been vandalised. It said the trustees had received information to show that the occupants had: 

  • Disposed of human waste in drains and elsewhere after the water supply was disconnected.
  • Installed a large generator after the electricity was cut.
  • Attempted to divert water on to the premises by connecting the inflow pipe where it adjoined the municipal water meter.
  • Strewn rubble across the backyard and in the garage.
  • Broken the garage door and removed the motor.
  • Broken the ceiling and removed the geyser.
  • Broken doors as well as cupboards.
  • Loosened the house’s parquet tiles.
  • Removed light fittings.
  • Removed copper and electrical pipes.
The extent of the damage can be seen in photographs, which Patel included with his affidavit.
He said the occupants had been using paraffin and gas and that the smell of the fumes from the generator also hung in the air. There was an odour of human effluent at the property, attracting cockroaches and flies, he said. 

“Respondents and other occupants are persons of no visible means and it is suspected that they are presently using the property for various illegal activities such as the sale of dependence-producing substances and prostitution,” Patel said. 

Aside from five names, the trustees had not been able to establish the identities of the occupants because none of them was willing to co-operate, he added. 

The sole member of the cc, named in court papers as Ridwaan Banderker, has abandoned the property and no longer lives in South Africa, while a handyman who initially lived at the property could not be traced, Patel said. 

“It is clear that, contrary to the premises’ stated use as a residential dwelling, it is now being used to house a large group of transient persons with nobody having any responsibility to maintain the property,” he said. 

Neighbours had managed to establish that some of the occupants come from Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo or Zimbabwe, he added. 

The neighbours, he said, feared for their lives and had reported that police had had to step in on several occasions. 

A valuator went to the property in January but was held by the occupants for two hours after they took umbrage when he told them the cc had been liquidated and that they had to vacate the premises, Patel said. 

The valuator was released unharmed. The following month, the occupants had addressed a second valuator in an aggressive manner. 

“(The occupants) have threatened with violence and death persons who they deem might interfere with their occupation of the premises and indeed persons living in properties adjoining the premises live in fear of them,” he said.

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